tv Meet the Press NBC November 25, 2012 8:00am-9:00am PST
center stage in protests in egypt. the president seizes more power, undermining the country's democratic reform. the turmoil follows a still fragile cease-fire in gaza as the middle east takes another volatile turn. at home, white house critics press for more answers about what went wrong in libya, and whether officials were truthful with the public. >> i relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. i made clear that the information was preliminary. my guests this morning weigh in. chairman of the armed services committee carl levin. and chairman of the house homeland security committee, new york republican peter king. then where does america stand on the verge of a second obama term in office? the economy, the fiscal cliff talks, the president's priorities in the next four years. our roundtable is here. david brooks of "the new york times."
msnbc's reverend al sharpton. former ceo of hewlett-packard carly fiorina >> historian and film maker ken burns. and nbc chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell. and we'll here from representative gregory meeks this morning as we check in on some of the hardest-hit victims of hurricane sandy and see how they offered thanks this weekend while surrounded by destruction. from nbc news in washington, the world's longest-running television program, this is "meet the press." with david gregory. president obama doing his part for the economy over the weekend out holiday shopping as part of small business saturday, picking up several children's book at an independent bookstore iypñarlington. meanwhile, uncertainty in the middle east. more clashes in egypt over the weekend as police use tear gas this morning to disburse protesters in cairo.
i want to start there. we have "new york times" columnist david brooks and our own andrea mitchell. andrea, this is because president morsi has seized power, a day after brokering a cease-fire between israel and hamas, he is now consolidating power. how worry side the administration about it? >> very worried, but they are very, very cautious because he is their new point of leverage really with hamas. he is the future, they thought, of trying to negotiate something and revive the israeli-palestinian talks. and now suddenly he seizes power. he was looking for this opportunity. he is threatened by the judiciary and the other mubarak forces who have, he believes, stopped the constitutional process and stymied that. but for him to do this now, at his point of greatest authority, puts the administration in a bind. and it's unclear how this is going to resolve. >> david brooks, there's a larger strategic question. there's egypt, gaza, syria, iran. there's a president's second term that's got to be dominated
by this region. >> i think so. it's the middle east, so there's good news and bad news. the good news is that the obama administration did an excellent job of supporting israel all through this. made israel feel moderate and the arabs feel realistic. the second piece of good news is that egypt, even under the muslim brotherhood, has an interest in having stability. that's very important. the bad news is the islamists are in control. in the palestinian areas with hamas and certainly in control in egypt. and there's going to be no peace as long as they are there in control, and u.s. policy has got to be a long, gradual process of trying to build up the non-islamists in the arab world, including in iran, across the region. >> that frames it. we'll hear more from you in the roundtable. now let me turn to carl levin, chairman of course of the armed services committee in the senate. senator, to egypt. how concerned are you? is morsi a partner of the united states, or a problem? >> yes. >> he's both? >> some of both, yeah. but even though there's great concern, i think we have to be very cautious.
we don't obviously want to see a democratically elected autocrat take the place of an undemocratically elected dictator. on the other hand, there are some real pluses possible here. if egypt takes some real responsibility for making the cease-fire work, we'll stop those missiles from going through the tunnels in gaza, and they seem to be moving in that direction. that can make a real difference in terms of what's going on in gaza and their attacks on israel, which have been the cause of the whole thing. >> what would you like to see the president say, to put a brake on morsi seizing power? what words does the president have to use to say we're not going back to mubarak? >> he has to express those concerns and say, obviously, we want this change to not just be democratic but also supportive of stability and also protecting
minorities and human rights in egypt. he says that, but at the same time he has to point out that behind all of this is iran. iran's support of hamas, hezbollah, syria, and the way that has been filtered into weaponry that goes through egypt, into gaza, if that can be stopped, by egypt, and if iran can get a message that the missiles are not going to succeed against israel because their defenses against short-range missiles, in this case, with the iron dome system, but also with the patriot system against possible iranian long-range missiles is going to take leverage away from iran. keep pulling the world together against iran. that's the source of the problem. >> what about the gaza cease-fire? when do hostilities begin again? when does fighting begin again? how much time has been purchased? >> if egypt will take a strong role here to stop the tunnels from being used for weaponry getting into gaza, this could lead to a real plus. >> you know, i read something
this week, robert keegan wrote, this is not a question of american influence in the region, it's american interests to take on all of these difficult problems. you talk about syria, the oppression there. conn condoleezza rice arguing in an op-ed this morning in "the washington post" that the u.s. has to do something, yes, it's risky, but there has to be more involvement. the breakdown of the middle east state system is a graver risk than the risks of getting involved in syria. iran will win, she writes. our allies will lose. and for decades the region's misery and violence will take today's chaos look tame. war is not receding in the middle east. it is building to a kre skend oh. the elections are over. now america must act. what does america have to do? >> well, with syria, if the opposition will get its act together, and become unified, it seems to me that then we should surely support turkey's request for patriot missiles as defenses against any threat from syria.
but also we then have to consider a no-fly zone, providing the opposition in syria comes together. but, again, all this goes looking for ways to keep the pressure on iran and to keep taking away from iran the kind of weaponry, both psychological and real, that they are using. >> i want to shift gears as we talk about your concern about our national security in the middle east. let's bring it back home, and the fiscal cliff talks that are going to begin this week. as chairman of the armed services committee, of course, all of these defense jobs that are imperiled by what's called sequestration, meaning automatic spending cuts, half of which would come from defense, you're talking about $50 billion a year starting in january for 10 years unless this deal is averted. by the deal, i mean the automatic cuts that were agreed to to raise the debt ceiling before. if i have a defense job, how worried should i be? >> well, i think you should be worried if you have a defense
job, but we all ought to be worried whether we are dependent upon other aspects of the federal budget. whether you're worried about the regulation of our food safety, whether you're worried about our borders being secure, whether we're worried about the fbi being supported. it's all affected by sequestration. the key here is whether or not the republicans will move away from the ideologically rigid position, which has been the grover norquist pledge, which most of them signed, that they will not go for additional revenues. when they move away from that pledge, and they must, as by the way all the presidents that i have ever served with, including reagan, clinton, and the first george bush, moved away from a position no additional taxes. they all added revenues to deficit reduction. a significant amount of revenue. >> your colleague from georgia just this week said the following about that pledge not to raise any taxes. >> you know, that pledge i
signed 20 years ago was valid then. it's valid now, but times have changed significantly.ñi and i care more about this country than i do about a 20-year-old pledge. >> it is my view that the issue of taxes is the number one stumbling block to any kind of fiscal deal. that has to be resolved first before you can get to issues like sequestration. when you hear that from a colleague, does it say to you that there is room, and does the president do anything short of raising tax rates on the wealthy? is there anything short of that acceptable? >> well, you've got to raise additional revenues, including tax rates on the wealthy. >> those have to go up? >> they have to go up. there's ways of doing that. secondly, though, we've got to close some significant loopholes. for instance, the ones which allow too many corporations in this country to avoid paying taxes by moving revenue overseas. the use of tax havens to avoid paying taxes in this country is
an outrage. we can end it. there's tens of billions of dollars a year involved in closing those kinds of offshore loopholes. >> i'm going to leave it there. senator levin, thank you for being here. hope you had a good holiday. i want to turn to the republican side. peter king of new york. congressman, hope you had a good holiday. good to see you this morning. >> i had a great holiday, especially because notre dame beat southern cal. >> my poor step dad. he is not so happy this morning. >> i don't care about him. >> let me continue on the issue of taxes because this is important. and as i say, it's going to be the defining issue. you hear republican saxby chambliss say it's not going to govern what i do. norquist saying he promised the people of georgia that he would reform the government rather than raise taxes. where do you stand on the pledge? can this be overcome? with revenues be raised? >> first of all, i agree with chambliss. a pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that congress.
for instance, if i were in congress in 1941, i would have signed the declaration of war against japan. i'm not going to attack japan today. the world has chand. the economic situation is different. ronald reagan and tip o'neill realized that in the 1980s. i think everything should be on the table. i am opposed to tax increases. the speaker and the majority leader and the president will be in a room trying to find the best package. i'm not going to prejudge it. and we should not be taking iron clad positions. i have faith in john boehner. >> congressman, we have seen this movie before. the bottom line question and, what can speaker boehner sell? if he goes to them and says, look, we cut a deal here, but tax rates have to go up. actual tax rates have to go up on the wealthy, like senator levin just said. can he sell it? >> i think john is going to do all he can to avoid an increase in tax rates. but as senator levin said, you can get the same results by changing deductions, changing exemptions, and that would put more of a tax burden on the rich
but it would not affect marginal tax rates. i don't want to prejudge any of it. bottom line, we cannot have sequestration. we cannot go off the fiscal cliff. the election is over. we have a speaker. the democrats have a president. the democrats have harry reid. we have mitch mcconnell. get them in the room. and that's what representative governments should be about. no one gets all they want. if reagan and o'neal can do it, r boehner and obama should be able to do this. >> the last attempt at a grand bargain, it was the politics and brinksmanship and it all went nowhere until a final deal that brought us to this breaking point. do you think that the tax issue has to be solved first before you can get to any defending issues, any of the entitlement issues? >> i think it all has to be on the table. again, i don't want to be said what has to be done first or second. that's for them in the room. but the election is over. president obama won. he won fair and square. we won the house. we won it fair and square.
democrats still control the senate. slight edge to the democrats. bottom line, it's over with. let's find a way to get this resolved as much as possible between now and the end of the year. so both the new congress and the president in his second term can start over with a clean slate. we have so many issues around the world. let's resolve what we can here and stop. i have a lot of faith in john boehner. >> let's talk about the volatility in libya, over the fate of susan rice, the u.n. ambassador who was on this program and others and talking about the fact that it seemed to be more spontaneous, the attack on the consulate in benghazi. and this has been thoroughly litigated. she responded to those who said that she willfully misled the public by saying it was spontaneous rather than what we know it was now, which was an attack on our consulate. these were her comments on wednesday. >> as a senior u.s. diplomat, i agreed to a white house request
to appear on the sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities. when discussing the attacks against our facilities in benghazi, i relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. i made clear that the information was preliminary. and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers. >> do you accept that, congressman? >> no, i don't. first, let me say, i think susan rice has done an effective job as u.n. ambassador especially on north korea, but on this she was wrong. if she is sent out to speak to the american people on what happened in benghazi, she is obligated to do more than look at three sentences of unclassified or five sentences of unclassified talking points. that was basically a cover story. she had access to all of the sensitive top secret classified
information. and she knew that the story she was giving out was not entirely true. she knew that parts had been taken out, for whatever reason, which we still haven't found out. i think that she should have been much more modulated in what she said. she gave the clear impression that we thought it came from the demonstration, and the video, and that is not the case. she certainly toned down almost minimized the issue of the terrorist threat. if there was any security reasons for doing that, she should not have emphasized it as much as she did about the video and the demonstration. it sent the wrong message to the question. >> do you have any question not to believe she was relying on an assessment given to her by the intelligence community? >> yeah, because that assessment was incomplete and she knew it. as u.n. ambassador, and someone in the chain of command of the state department, she has an obligation not to just be a puppet and take what's handed to her. she should have sat down with the national security council.
did she sit down with david petraeus? who did she sit down with to find out the story? as an ambassador, she has to know that a very condensed set of unclassified talking points tell you almost nothing. if she didn't get the whole picture, she failed in her responsibility. >> congressman, we'll leave it there. thank you for your time this morning. >> thank you, david. coming up, where do we stand as president obama prepares for his second term? what can we expect over the next four years? we'll have more with andrea mitchell and david brooks, and the rest of our roundtable. historian and documentary film maker ken burns. carly fiorina. and msnbc's al sharpton. our political roundtable coming up, right after this. "meet the press" is brought up, right after this. "meet the press" is brought to yowe know why we're here.. to chart a greener path in the air and in our factories. ♪ to find cleaner, more efficient ways to power flight. ♪ and harness our technology for new energy solutions.
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we are joined now by our roundtable, andrea mitchell and david brooks. former ceo of hp carly fiorina. al sharpton is here. and we're pleased to have ken burns. his new film "central park five" debuted in new york on friday. and we'll be talking about that. ken, great to see you. hope you all had a great thanksgiving. now we're looking ahead, because things are going to get serious in washington. amid all the holiday parties for the president, he has to try to get a fiscal deal. reverend al, based on what you've heard here today, don't we have to deal with the tax fight first before the president moves on to anything else? and do you sense that republicans are prepared to do that? >> i think we're going to have to deal with the question of where the tax rates go. no question about it. friday before last, the president met with 12 progressive leaders.
i was there. the same day he had just met with boehner and mcconnell. and i got a sense in that meeting that the president was going to be firm on dealing with that first, in terms of taxing the rich. and then there was the questions that were on the table. and i think he has to hold that. he made that commitment to the public. people voted for that. and that should be uncompromising. we've got to deal with jobs and unemployment. we certainly are concerned about that in communities of color. all of that is going to be dealt with, though, as we deal with taxes. >> carly fiorina, the tax question will come down to whether the president gives on the overall top tax rate, versus what republicans want to do, which is say, look, we can raise revenues through tax reform. we can deal with deductions that favor the wealthy. they have to get enough money. that's the bottom line. they need enough revenue. >> first of all, i think there will be probably an agreement on tax rates for the millionaires and billionaires, which is what president obama campaigned on.
of course, now what he's talking about is a family of four making $250,000. and if you're living in the tristate area or washington d.c., you don't feel like a millionaire at that rate. i think we should be also talking at the same time about closing loopholes because it helps simplify the tax code. and simplifying the tax code is critical if we want to restore small business creation and entrepreneurship in this country. and we also have to be talking about where is it we're going to cut spending. it's a critical part of our fiscal problems. it's not just a 30-day tax deal. it is we need to make a down payment on revenue, yes, but we need to make a down payment on government reform and tax reform as well. >> ken burns, david's colleague, tom freeman, wrote a column recently. i think itets to the leadership challenge for obama, what he's got to do to really apply leverage on capitol hill. he writes this. i get why the president needs to stress that the wealthy will have to pay higher taxes before he can go to the base for
spending cuts to restore long-term fiscal balance, but here's what i hope we'll see more from the president. a sense of excitement, a sense that if we can just get this grand bargain done, we can unlock roads again. if everyone has to take their castor oil, make them feel it will enable us to all get stronger, make them feel we are embarking on a new journey not to sock it to the successful but create more abundance for all. a sense of some civic duty. >> that's right. not kicking the can down the road, which is very easy. you can see all the ways that can happen. i agree with carly. as someone who just came out of witness protection along with big bird since the first debate, breathing a sigh of relief, but we know the pain will be distributed. and that's the important point that he has to lead in that regard. you have to insist on keeping the campaign promises but also figure out where you're going to make the revenue cuts. and that's going to be really painful, but it's true. there is some clear sailing on the other side of that that permits us to have some flexibility, kind of flexibility we have not had in an awfully
long time. >> what is the case for greater abundan abundance? what is the great journey that people should not feel punished about but excited about? is that case to be made? >> we are one budget deal away from being the hot spot of the world. europe is in the toilet. china has fallen down. we have a lot of potential. we are one step away. if we can prove our nation is governable, we are really the golden spot in the world. and the way you do that, first the republicans have some homework to do. they have to figure out which taxes do we least want to oppose. that's rates. that's capital gains. or that's deductions. i think they'll end up with capital gains. and say raise that, we'll get the revenue that way. but the president has homework too. his posture on spending has been very passive, i'm all ears. give me what you've got. the republicans will not give on taxes unless the president leads on spending. but if they can get that done and prove in the next couple of months we are governable, we are really in a golden position to go forward and do bigger things.
>> but i think that requires a different posture from both congress, from the republicans, and from the president. the president showed that he really can work with t legislators. and remember where he just gave them guidelines? it would be much easier if he really presented something, worked it through, sold it more. he has to show a different kind of leadership. and it's not clear whether or not he's going to spend the political capital. remember, the president that you covered so intensely, george bush, when he was re-elected, and said he had that capital to spend, and tried it on social security and failed, and these are very, very tough decisions. there is a moment here. we are at a point. and if this president and this congress can get past their talking points, get past the populace rhetoric, we are at a great moment in america because of energy and all the other things that are happening and because of the other failures you talked about. >> the state of the economy
right now, david cole, the ceo of honeywell, served on the simpson-bowles commission and met with the president this week. good to see you, david. and i wonder what you can tell us about the state of the economy right now as the president embarks on a second term. how bullish are you about improving conditions? >> right now, i'm not that bullish at all. in fact, i'd say there's a great uncertainty that's just hanging over the entire economy because we're not confident that our guys can govern anymore. we've got 536 independent contractors all talking about the significance of jobs, but the one thing that they could do that would remove that uncertainty and create this job growth we'd all like, they're not doing. and there's a couple of stumbling blocks. it's not just taxes. we have a significant problem with entitlements. medicare, medicaid in particular. those things need to get resolved together. if we could actually develop a $4 trillion credible market
credible plan that would cause everyone out there to say, wow, we can govern again. >> yeah. >> this debt crisis has been averted. the fiscal crisis been averted. we've got past all this. there's a lot of money on the sidelines that people are willing to invest. people like me just aren't hiring now because we're not confident they can do it. >> and that's i think the positive case. i guess my question for business leaders like yourself, you've worked with this president. you have been more of an ally of this white house. you know as well as i do a lot of your colleagues, fellow ceos, are really upset with this white house. is there a way for him to rebuild an alliance here with corporate america, to get some of these things done? >> of course there is. and if you take a look at what we've been able to do with our fix the debt campaign, the campaign to fix the debt, that's a group of ceos who have gotten together, an ad hoc group, not part of any other organization, and we've raised about $40 million just to be driving this point that it's tax reform that
raises more revenue, and it's entitlement reform, the ticking time bomb, that's going to kill us. and we've got to do all of this at one time. so we are very supportive of the president being able to get something like this done. it's vitally important for our economy. >> david cole, thank you very much. al sharpton, here is the issue. warren buffett saying this week to the president effectively, my words, not his, don't give in here. don't give in on taxes. threaten to go over the fiscal cliff. it's not going to kill the economy any worse. how does the president work his will here? how does he get to the kind of compromise that david cody wants and other ceos, while still saying i've won this election and i need to drive things in the direction i think is best? >> i think he's got to govern by the commitments made during the campaign. and i think he will. this is about fairness. why do we need to deal with the tax on the rich first? because we must assure americans we are dealing with fairness. we keep talking about shared sacrifice.
there was not shared wealth and shared prosperity. so you're asking people that didn't enjoy the good times to share in paying for the tab that they never enjoyed. so i think that when we first deal with the taxes, as you raised in your first point, and then go from there talking about how we deal with entitlements and all, you have a fairer environment to govern from. but you can't put it all on seniors and poor people and people of color. >> you know during the campaign, the president said there would be $2.50 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. and that's the right formula. that's what you have to do at once. you can't tax your way through a budget deal. you have to do it both ways. you can't take the country off the fiscal cliff. first, you just can't control it. you don't know what will happen in the world if we have another budget crisis. it could be cataclysmic. and you can't humiliate the republicans on your way to a deal.
you have to have reform of medicare, tied with the tax increase for the rich. that's the deal. everybody knows it's the deal. it's doing it in a respectful way that gets you there. >> it's also because the other priority, carly, you don't get to economic growth unless you find a way for the government to start investing more on infrastructure, on things that are going to create jobs, even in the energy sector. >> absolutely. look, i -- let us accept reverend al's point and the president's point about fairness. but equally it is not fair that public employee union pensions and bhenefits are so rich now that cities are going bankrupt and college tuition is going up 25% and 30%. and police and firefighters are being cut. there's a lot that isn't fair right now. and a lot of where money is being spent isn't fair either. so we've got to deal with both sides of the equation. and, yes, we have to get to growth. i think we have four actually structural problems in the economy right now. never mind the recession and what else is going on around the world. small business creation is at a 40-year low. we have to solve immigration.
we have an education system that isn't competitive. and we are not innovating at the rate we could and should. does government have a role to play? absolutely. but it's not in picking winners and losers. it's investing in fundamental foundational research. >> ken, i want to get you in on this in this way, which is how does speaker boehner's threat this week to bring health care into all of this affect it all? this is what he wrote in an op-ed on wednesday about putting health care on the table. they still want to repeal it. as was the case before the election, he writes obamacare has to go. we can't afford it. can't afford to leave it intact. that's why i've been clear it has to stay on the table. congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct thorough oversight of the executive branch and congressional oversight will play a critical role in repealing obamacare going forward. they didn't defeat it legislatively or in the court. this will be the last chance. >> this is a bit of red meat
still back to the constituency, but i think the deal has to get done. they have to make the point. i think what cody was saying too about you have all of these independent free agents. we are a culture that is so indulgent. we fantasize about apocalyptic things, have secession movements and fads coming up. all of this stuff going on. and what i think this is about is about process, getting down to the deal. you have to give a clear path for the republicans to say yes, as you suggested, david, and you have to get it done. now, he's going to posture every once in a while. the president has to posture to his base. but in the end, you have to sit down and make a deal. that's how this government works. anything short of it is not how the government works. and he spent too long frozen in some other kind of independent free agency where everybody gets to be their own talking head. >> and one of the great impetuses for this is that the voters said we want the government to work. senators durbin and coburn, both
sides, were working on a deal. have you patty murray now empowered by having led the democrats to success in their senate re-election campaign. and she is the incoming head of the budget committee. she is at the table. you've got a group of people on both sides who really want to make this work. and i think the speaker what he is doing as ken just said is sending some red meat, but i don't think anyone seriously thinks that the election mandate is to revisit health care. that is a done deal. >> let me revisit where we started the program this morning. the president believes that a second term agenda is about restoring some faith in the fact that government can work, and this is the first test of that. but then there is immigration reform, which he wants to get done. there's got to be some attention on energy. there's the issue of climate change. but how much of his time is going to be dominated by the necessity for america to figure out what its new strategy is in the middle east, beyond winding down our military forces? because we're needed there. >> we're going to be needed
there. but we have a state department. we have a defense department. they can do that. i still think this will be a domestic policy agenda. if we can get the yes on this deal right now, show that the country is governable, there's really a process to go through, a whole bunch of big things. sort of in an 1890 situation where a lot of big problems are hitting us at once. we have wiped out wages for the middle class. a corrupt political system. ossified political structures like the tax reform and the immigration code. if we can get that first yes over the next couple of months, we can take a series of steps on immigration and tax reform to tackle these big things. >> i agree that the yes is important, and i think part of what the president has to deal with, david, is we thought he had a yes in the grand bargain, and then boehner couldn't bring in his caucus. let's not act like there are not those on the president's side that are saying, wait a minute, you had all of these people signing these grover norquist commitments that wouldn't give any on the deal you're talking about. and i'm encouraged when i hear
colleagues implying that maybe they will give. i'm a preacher. sunday morning, i love congress calling. maybe you are all coming over this way and not being so hard lined. but it was not the president in the grand bargain. it was the norquist committed republican caucus that after boehner made the agreement would not let him do it. >> look, you had on this program this morning peter king saying this, chambliss is saying, that does seem to be breaking. we can still fight about tax rates over capital gains or whatever, but it does seem to be breaking. >> i think people know a deal needs to be made. i think these are practical people. but i also think that the president needs at this juncture to go back to what andrea said. the president needs to provide a view of what his agenda actually is. the reverend said he should govern the way he campaigned. there were not a lot of big ideas in his campaign. taxing the wealthy is not a big
idea. taxing the wealthy is not getting this economy back on the road to growth. taxing the wealthy is not a process of addressing our great opportunities and challenges. so as incumbent as it is for the republicans to say, ok, we're going to put revenue on the table, and i think john boehner was crystal clear in his first speech after the election that revenues are on the table, the president needs to step forward and say, here is my grand vision for america. >> especially about the role of government. we'll come back on this after the break with our roundtable. i want to talk as well about the leadership lessons from lincoln. everybody is seeing that movie this weekend. i know i did. what can modern day politicians learn from the great leaders of the past? plus, giving thanks amid the destruction. this picture of hope from the new york area as we start the season back. on monday we'll talk about this and also hear from congressman gregory meeks from long island after this break. more from our roundtable after i don't spend money on gasoline.
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two bodyguards, blue m&mings, what a diva we have on the show tonight. >> i'm sorry. hey, lindsay. you look great. >> thank you. >> thanks for coming. >> of course. everyone is so nice here. >> we appreciate you being here. >> thanks. >> everything ok, mr. gregory? >> yeah, yeah. but can i get a little bit more butter please? >> all right. that's how i spent part of my
thanksgiving break, appearing on "the tonight show". and we did that little gag there, lindsay lohan very nice. >> that was a gag? >> yeah. exactly. i had to do numerous takes to eat all of that lobster, i can tell you. we are back with more of our roundtable. the other thing that i did, and i think a lot of people did this weekend, is see "lincoln." what a film. it chronicles such a critical part of our history, and lincoln's presidency, fighting to abolish slavery and winning the 13th amendment. that you wrote, david, in your column on friday something that really struck my attention and struck me. and i'll put a portion of it on the screen because it gets to what the leadership lessons are. "lincoln," you wrote, directed by spielberg portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way. it shows that you can do more good in politics than any other sphere. you can achieve these things only if you're willing to stain
your character in order to serve others, if you're willing to bamboozle, compromise, and will be to be slippery and hypocritical. >> i'm disappointed that lindsay lohan isn't on the roundtable this morning. >> she is interested in politics. believe it or not. that's what she said to me. >> that is the beauty of politics. you know, if it was all just writes papers, people like me could govern. it's about paying attention to other people. and one of the things the movie shows so beautifully is lincoln has to know who he can win just by giving a job, who he can appeal to patriotism, who he can say, well, your brother died, do it for him. he is getting in the trenches with people. and the other thing that struck me is there's a beautiful scene where lincoln is tending a fire, on his hands and knees, and moving his wood around in the fire, that would never happen today. he was down there with people and could relate in a much more
natural way. and i'm afraid we made the emperorial presidency, made that so much harder. >> there are three things that jump out. first of all, it's compromise. shelby foote told me that we like to think of ourselves as uncompromising people. that's the problem today. but our geniuses for compromise, and when that failed that was called the civil war. second is we have gotten into this government is bad thing. this government, for example, has been a force for extraordinary good. extraordinary good. the list is almost endless of the things it's done. so we have to get back to my version of government is better than your version of government. let's get back to good government. and the third, and it's present in lincoln and less so on our tongue today, but it's about race. race is always there in america. it's always something we don't want to talk about. it's on the table. do you think we'd have a secession movement in texas and other places, faddish secession movement, if this president wasn't african-american? do you think that the vitriol
would have been at the same level if this president wasn't african-american? i look at the lessons that emanates from lincoln, who still teaches and tries to point us towards those better angels. they come in the essence of compromise. the exclushrewd use of compromi. it is not always pretty. it is sausage making. and also the acknowledgment that we are still dealing with our original sin, that we could proclaim our independence with the idea that all men are created equal, and that the guy who wrote those words owned more than 100 human beings. >> in the film, it talks about the concession. they were just saying just all people are equal in the eyes of the law, and that fell short of what abolitionists wanted, which was racial equality. and there was the belief that we can't let righteousness drive the process. it's working the machinery to get to that place where we get
slavery prohibited as a start before we get to anything else. >> you know, i wanted to see the movie, in part inspired by david's column on friday, i went last night. and that was the striking part to me of the film. because i have been an activist and an advocate all my life. leading an advocate organization. a president has to get things done. so even if a president is transformational, it's how he gets there. and that's what lincoln had to deal with. that's the character that was played that you've got to back off of being a purist so we can get this done. now, it doesn't mean advocates shouldn't advocate. we don't govern. we try to push as far as we can. but at the end, they've got to have the president take all the pushing to say, this is what i'm going to achieve. and i think that's what lincoln did. i think that's the challenge that mr. obama has now. and i think that was very critical in that movie. i wish frederick douglass pushing lincoln would have been
a scene in the movie because i think that's what we're dealing with, david. real leaders can take pushing from all sides. but at the end of the day, they say how do i really believe and get something concrete done. >> and the people love you. remember, the scene where his wife, played by sally field, says, the people love my husband. and he used that. >> yes. and it's not just getting things done, although it's surely that. it's not just the practicality of compromise and paying attention to other people. it is surely that. but one of the reasons people loved lincoln, and one of the things that gave lincoln his steel and his passion, was he was animated by a grand idea. which was to create a more perfect union, and to abolish slavery once and for all. and he was willing to let men die for that idea. >> and one of the things also is as david was writing, politics is not a bad thing. compromise is not a bad thing. and you feel that -- >> at a time when we so loathe
politics, so many people in this country. >> and it's become demonized. and i think also going back to the new great book on thomas jefferson that jon meacham has written, that the political spirit of compromise is part of what created this union. and we are the sort of beneficiaries of all of that. >> i would just say the staining is real. you really do have to deceive. you really do bad things to your soul. if you're a leader, you have to acknowledge that and be aware that you're damaged goods. that's one of the beauties of lincoln. he understood what it was doing to him. it's a corrupting process, but you take on the sins of the country for the good of the country. >> and that's why it matters. >> we also have to take some of the spotlight off of lincoln because people in his own party were disappointed with him. he was tardy on emancipation. there was obviously criticism from the other side. he was considered a failure for a good deal of it because he hadn't been able to seal the deal. so i think that what happens is we have to allow leadership an
out. it was lincoln who reminded us early on, when he was not even 29 years old, realizing the great geographical force field that two oceans provided us, that we would live forever or die by suicide, that it would be our own undoing. i think what we see today is just an electorate fed up with the notion that we're not getting anything done. we're not engaging in the old-fashioned politics that requires dealing at the level of tip o'neill and ronald reagan and getting things done. >> let me get to another film, and that's your film, "central park five," that race seems to be everywhere in the american story. here in the more modern context, the awful wilding case in central park, rapist, and these young men, african-americans, who were falsely convicted. this was called by mayor koch at the time the crime of the century. why take this on, ken, in the film? what's the broader lesson that you wanted to share? >> well, i took it on in large part because my daughter, sarah
burns, and her husband, the fame maker david mcmahon, took it on and wanted to tell this as a film story. my daughter had written a book about it. but race is ever present. and we try to pretend. we talked about it when obama was elected that we were post racial. we're not. racism will exist in the breast of every human being. it's there. and what we have to do is figure out these points where we can have lessons. and the central park five is one lesson. it was a much more interesting story when it was this impossible, improbable, and it turns out not true story, of five young black and hispanic boys, wilding, a wolfpack. we dehumanized them. and they didn't do it. the cops had the guy who actually did it two days before and didn't follow through. the dna didn't match. it was a bloody crime scene. there was nothing of the crime scene on the boys. nothing of the boys on the crime scene. everything pointed towards alternative narratives, and there were very few lone voices at that time. reverend al was one of them, saying you have to stop and entertain.
and the press bought it too, which is why once they were exonerated, we spent a decade in limbo because the very agency that could be the tool of their delivery is culpable. >> you were an adviser to the family? >> and i led picket lines for it, and we were castigated. but if you want to talk about the two films, "lincoln" and "central park," the price you pay is you'll be attacked if you go out and stand up. but you cannot give in to cynicism. because at the end of the day, we did end up proving those young men, and you put that i think in a beautiful way in this film, were innocent. one of them ended up having to work for the international network because he lost 13 years of his life. that's the downside. the upside is we have been able to show this. the downside of race today, the birther movement, never happened to another president. but the good side is as i watched the lincoln film last night is a black family is
living in the white house, and many whites voted for him. so sometimes even in the midst of what seems like great despair, the country grows if we're willing to pay a price. >> but you can't take your foot off the accelerator here. because the thing that "lincoln" is talking about the 13th amendment. that's early 1865. and what we are talking about? it's essentially extending the 13th amendment in sort of spirit as well as in fact. and that means there's still work to do. and wherever we take our eye off the ball, then the birther movement and all of that -- >> right. >> i want to go back to mrs. lincoln saying her husband was loved, which he certainly was. and also clearly he was an imperfect man who engaged in questionable tactics at times, although they were successful. i don't think the american people expect their leaders to be perfect, ever. in fact, i think americans tend to embrace people in all their imperfection. what they expect is their leaders to be up to the challenge of the time. >> i want to shift gears just
slightly as we reflect on our -- all the things that make us thankful on this thanksgiving weekend. i wanted to take just a couple of minutes to go to new york with congressman gregory meeks. he joins us. his district, of course, includes far rockaway and queens which was hit so hard during hurricane sandy. congressman, it's good to have you here. and i wanted to make sure we were checking in to see how folks in the hurricane zone were fairing this thanksgiving and this thanksgiving weekend. tell me about the week you've had with folks up there as we look at the images. >> let me tell you, first, every individual on that peninsula, whether to the east or to the west, was affected. there's not a single individual not affected by the storm. but just listening to what your panel was talking about, on thanksgiving it was spiritual, inspirational to see individuals come from around the city and indeed from around the nation to try to make sure that people were eating. i saw neighbors cooking as if it was the summertime on their grills and sharing their food with other neighbors. and people coming together
saying that we still have a long ways to go, but we're going to be thankful that we have life. we're thankful that we're still here. and we're going to rebuild. you know, it was an inspirational day, thanksgiving, walking around. the governor of the state of new york who has come to the area a number of times trying to make sure that people were being fed and looking to see what was going on. that was positive. and then when i look at what the mayor has done recently, because we were devastated, especially our small businesses, in regards to making sure there are grants for some of our small businesses so they can get back on their feet and we can create jobs again, that is also inspirational. and we are thankful for that. for sure people are still hurting. some still don't have gas. so they can't cook in their apartment. some still do not have heat. we don't want them to be in their apartments our homes as it gets cold. but we are coming together and working together to try to make sure that we get people back to normal as quickly as we possibly can. >> one of the lingering effects, as a member of congress you'll have to look at the ability of
the government to pay to help some of these folks who have lost their homes and to be insured, to make insurance payments for people who have lost homes. that's right. we have to do certain things. michael grim and myself, michael represents staten island, and i represent the rockaway peninsula. peter king who was here, we were talking in the green room. democrat, republican, steve israel, further out, we have to work together. governor comeau and governor christie. this is not a democrat or republican issue. this is an american issue. we come together and make sure that our citizens survive. i think you'll see us go in with a unified voice trying to say that we have to have the funds appropriated that are necessary to help people to get back on their feet. governor comeau is having a meeting tomorrow, for example, with all of those who are affected in new york. all of the elected so we can try to come together and speak with one voice. i think that is important. and i think that we can do that in a bipartisan manner because all of us have been affected.
>> congressman meeks, good to see you. thank you for sharing your photos and the experiences and of course our best to everybody in your district as we continue to check in on them. thank you very much. we will take a break here thank you very much. we will take a break here ani'm a conservative investor.. i invest in what i know. i turned 65 last week. i'm getting married. planning a life. there are risks, sure. but, there's no reward without it. i want to be prepared for the long haul. i see a world bursting with opportunities. india, china, brazil, ishares, small-caps, large-caps, ishares. industrials. low cost. every dollar counts. ishares. income. dividends. bonds. i like bonds. ishares. commodities. diversification. choices. my own ideas. ishares. i want to use the same stuff the big guys use. ishares. 9 out of 10 large, professional investors choose ishares for their etfs. introducing the ishares core, etfs for the heart of your portfolio. tax efficient and low cost building blocks to help you keep more of what you earn. call your advisor. visit ishares.com. ishares.
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